Navigating the Brazilian crisis: Lessons learnt

Nov 29th 2016 |

An interview with Camila Lima, Head of Treasury & Credit Operations at Roche

Although there are signs of recovery, Brazil is still battling with a deep recession. President Temer has acknowledged that it will take time to revert the course of the country's economy and inspiring business confidence is one of the key drivers. In the meantime, treasuries are confronted with FX volatility, inflation, liquidity risk, funding challenges and banks exiting the region. In this series of interviews Mariel Barclay, asks how treasurers are managing in these challenging times.

What has this crisis taught you? What should treasuries prioritise? 

We quickly learned that downturns have an immediate impact on market liquidity and that our role becomes more critical to protect the financial wellbeing of our organization. We also learned that competing organizations can also support each other through sharing costumer exposure risks.

Treasury should prioritize alertness. We must be aware of the changing factors in a fluid, volatile environment so as to have the ability to react and adjust in a timely manner.

How do you ensure you have the necessary liquidity when and where needed in an environment like this?

We do monthly liquidity forecasts, we identify threats and we take the appropriate steps to guarantee liquidity while preserving our financial health.

Having control of cash ensures the effectiveness of operations and a better management of cash flows. This allows us to support business decisions skilfully and in real time. 

How do you ensure Treasury is aligned with the company's strategy?

We ensure alignment by asking ourselves if our initiatives, actions and decisions are aligned with the global treasury´s strategy.  We are in a constant search for the right balance between available cash and meeting treasury demands.

To ensure this alignment, it is important that that we recognise that, as a financial team we can contribute to the company's strategy.  As treasurers, we need passion and innovation to do what we do and to connect our responsibility with the company’s strategy. 

How do you translate global policies in a changing local environment, marked by regulatory and tax constraints?

We see local volatility every day. Markets that are subject to volatility create mechanisms to mitigate it. I understand that global policies are a concept based on the maximization of cash resources and this concept can also be applied to local markets, regardless of levels of volatility.

For example our Regional Credit and Payment policies have a good track record and are based on global polices.

What is the balance between global standardization and the efficiencies you can gain locally with different practices?

I believe there are actually two environments, the internal and the external one. The internal environment comprising the SSCs and affiliates is very aligned and standardized. The challenge has always been to adapt, adjust and align with the local external environment, even more so when these local processes are a legal requirement.

Of course local practices are standardized at country level. Our teams have developed expertise in these countries´ environments. We are creating country treasury experts, a new role-and an example of innovation.

What is your bank strategy, considering the future of their current business model is uncertain in a world of low interest rates, increased regulation and competition? 

This uncertain economic environment is not likely to change in the near future. Adjusting our business models and cash necessities is really important when considering our bank strategy. Interest rates and different regulations are part of the story, so we look for bank partners that provide initiatives to accelerate and simplify our processes.

Has the exit of some banks from the region affected you? 

Banks have begun changing and exiting operations in the Latam Region, maybe as a result of the uncertain economic environment.  Given that we are in a strong negotiating position, we demand guarantees to ensure that our operations will not be affected. In our case, we have not been affected since we have regular meetings with the banks. 

What is your ideal bank partner? 

To be our partner, a Bank has to provide higher levels of security than others, have presence in as many countries as possible and be aligned with our treasury goals, which are simplification and low cost. Our ideal bank partner is one who agrees to cooperate with our strategy.

What is your take on FinTechs and Blockchain?

In our view, FinTechs and blockchain technologies may result in a radically different competitive future in the financial services, especially considering the need for efficiency that all companies are looking for.